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This article by Patricia Summers was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on
15, 1998. All rights reserved.
Rising to the Fleisher Challenge
Twenty years, 100 years, "20 x 12," 185 artists
. . . It sounds at first like so much mathematics, but it proves to
be the story of a warm and welcoming, 100-year-old Philadelphia art
institution. With two extensive exhibitions opening this month, the
Fleisher Art Memorial celebrates both its centennial and two decades
of "Challenge" exhibits that have showcased up-and-coming
area artists working in every art medium.
Not wholly either museum or monument, the Samuel S. Fleisher Art
at 719 Catharine Street, between 7th and 8th streets in South
is best known as one of the country’s oldest and largest tuition-free
visual arts organizations for adults and children. Itself a kind of
artwork that in turn houses myriad other works of art, the Fleisher
Memorial consists of six adjoining buildings: a former vocational
school, a former church and belltower, and three row houses.
Besides its educational programming, the Fleisher’s Challenge
series — intended to challenge both artists and the public to
encounter contemporary artistic expression in its many forms —
annually attracts more than 300 applications from artists within a
50-mile radius of Philadelphia. Each year, 12 artists are selected
for a series of three-person shows; every 10 years, all these earlier
participants are invited to show their new work.
Founded by Samuel S. Fleisher in 1898 as the Graphic Sketch Club,
and initially intended to instill art and humanitarian principles
in the children of recent immigrants to the neighborhood, the Fleisher
Art Memorial — which was renamed at its founder’s death in 1945
— now serves about 3,000 students each year, with offerings
from academic sculpture to mask-making, and from tapestry weaving
to calligraphy to jewelry. Fleisher left his estate in trust,
the Philadelphia Museum of Art as administrator. Now, although the
museum has ultimate oversight, it has delegated responsibility for
governance to the Fleisher board of directors. Funding for the
and exhibition programs is also the Fleisher’s purview.
Two related exhibitions mark this year’s Fleisher milestones. Both
open on the evening of Friday, July 17, with shuttle buses carrying
guests between the sites. "20 x 12: A Generation of Challenge
Artists," at the Fleisher, allows a full generation of area
all Challenge exhibitors during the last 20 years, to show new work.
Opening with a 7 to 10 p.m. reception, "20 x 12" includes
the work of more than 160 artists from the challenge program,
five from central New Jersey: Barbara Klein, Mel Leipzig, Richard
Sanders, Krista Van Ness, and Martha Vaughn. It remains on view
Concurrently the Philadelphia Museum of Art presents
"20 Philadelphia Artists: Celebrating Fleisher Challenge at
a retrospective that traces the careers of 20 artists after their
Challenge exhibitions. The PMA exhibition opens with a 6 to 8 p.m.
reception and runs through September 13. Diversity is a hallmark of
the PMA group, reflecting the wide range of contemporary approaches
in evidence at the Fleisher during the Challenge series. They include,
for example, figurative painters working with Renaissance techniques,
a stained-glass artist who, atypically for the medium, presents
and disturbing imagery, sculptors making multimedia installation
and printmakers who incorporate such unconventional materials as
pharmaceuticals into their work.
"The show at the Philadelphia Museum was selected to tell a
explains Thora Jacobson, the Fleisher’s executive director for almost
20 years and originator of the Challenge series. "It’s an
look as well as a close look at individual artists."
The five central Jersey artists who will exhibit at the Fleisher
realist painter Mel Leipzig, of Trenton, and sculptor Richard Sanders,
of Princeton. Both were also included in the Fleisher’s first
anniversary show, in 1988, because their exhibits had occurred during
the series’ first decade.
Leipzig will show "Francesca at the Door," one of his portrait
works involving multiple reflections that was included in his recent
retrospective at the New Jersey State Museum. He first exhibited at
the Fleisher in 1982. He remembers hearing that realist painters
usually chosen, and views involvement with the Fleisher as "a
terrific thing — very good for artists in the area."
Until his family’s move to Princeton about seven years ago, Sanders
lived near the Fleisher and remembers it as a vital part of the
He likens it to the Arts Council of Princeton, which also offers a
wide spectrum of classes (although not tuition-free) and includes
gallery space. Sanders’ non-representational sculptures are made of
wood and bristle horse hair. He’ll show two pieces at the Fleisher,
"Broken Dreams" and the whimsical "Ethnic Cleanser."
He describes this Fleisher exhibition as "a very good show to
be represented in, with high-quality work," and joins the other
artists in positively citing the tie-in with the Philadelphia Museum
Barbara Klein will exhibit a work in oil on paper, "Four
Hearts," comprised of nine individual pieces in a grid. She says
the work is uncharacteristic for her because it includes "visible
areas of color." Klein, who lives in Lawrenceville, also recently
exhibited at the New Jersey State Museum in the solo show,
Ciphers." Her work is currently included in the New Jersey State
Council on the Arts Fellowship Exhibition at the Jersey City Museum.
Klein describes the Fleisher as "quirky and lovable,"
its "very beautiful spare white exhibition space" from her
Challenge show there a few years ago. She had applied every year,
she says, and was honored to be chosen. The Fleisher’s long commitment
to community outreach and its diverse shows engendered her
respect" for the place.
The most recent participant in a Challenge exhibit, Krista Van Ness
of Pennington, will show two assemblages in glass boxes, both of which
were included in her solo exhibition at the Peddie School earlier
this year. "The Debate," which includes two mounted rabbit
heads and piles of pearls, is her vision of a fairy tale she heard
as a child. "Bird Mummies" shows six preserved, wrapped
— "not official mummy wrapping," she cautions. In their
varied death postures, she says, the birds expressed more
than they had while alive.
Van Ness regards the Challenge shows as "really quite
and the Fleisher as "a quality environment" with an
level of art. Its link to the Philadelphia Museum of Art only adds
to the luster. Photographer Martha Vaughn of Princeton is the fifth
area artist whose work — two Polaroid transparency prints —
will be included in "20 x 12."
To preview the upcoming Fleisher exhibitions on the Internet, go to
www.fleisher.org. This new means of access, also marking the
20th anniversary of the Challenge series, makes available both
and images for all but five of the 185 artists whose work will be
exhibited at one of the two sites. Constituting a regional arts
this material will be kept updated and supplemented while providing
viewers to select specific print-outs for purchase.
Besides the "free and open to the public" receptions on July
17, further programming related to the two Fleisher exhibitions
gallery discussions, Challenge studio tours, a collectors’ forum,
and a week-long summer studio class for children.
— Pat Summers
Fleisher Art Memorial, 719 Catharine Street, Philadelphia,
Website: www.fleisher.org. Opening reception is Friday, July
17, for the show that continues to August 28. Gallery hours are Monday
to Friday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m. to noon; and 1 to 3
at Twenty , Philadelphia Museum of Art, Benjamin Franklin Parkway
at 26th Street, Philadelphia, 215-763-8100. Website:
Opening reception is Friday, July 17, for the show that continues
to September 13. Museum hours are Tuesday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5
p.m.; Wednesdays until 8:45 p.m. Closed Mondays and major holidays.
Museum admission is $8 adults; $5 for children, students, and seniors.
Free Sunday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
609-799-6706. "Six New Jersey Artists," with Malcolm Bray,
Dan Fernandez, Milt Liebson, Fran McIlvain, Doug McIlvain, and
van Dommelen. To September 18. Gallery hours are Tuesday to Thursday,
11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to
children’s folklore and fantasy gallery features works by Russian-born
illustrator Gennady Spirin. Gallery hours are Tuesday to Sunday, 11
a.m. to 6 p.m.
609-452-7800. First day for Bill Taylor’s exhibit, "In Focus:
India-Nepal," a photo exhibition by Bill Taylor, well known for
his architectural photography, and president of Taylor Photo. The
show features scenic and portrait photographs taken on a recent trip
to India and Nepal. To August 29. The gallery on the lower level is
open daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Nassau, 609-921-6748. "Practical Photographers: The Rose Family
Studio," images from the awesome collection of 10,000 glass plate
negatives, dating from shortly after the Civil War to the early 1950s.
The Rose Studio was founded in Princeton in 1873 by Royal Hill Rose
whose commercial photography studio stood on Nassau Street through
three generations of family owners, until its closing in 1951. To
December 30. Free. Museum hours are Tuesday to Sunday, noon to 4 p.m.
609-497-4192. Show of work by the Senior Center watercolor class,
directed by Carol Scott, that has been meeting weekly since 1992.
To September 10. Open daily, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
206, 609-924-1875. Recent paintings by Anne Boysen, abstract flower
studies in a profusion of different hues. A former Philadelphian,
Boysen now lives in an old farmhouse in Bucks County where she finds
the countryside a constant source of inspiration. To July 23. Gallery
hours are Thursday and Friday, 1 to 5 p.m., and by appointment.
"Twentieth-Century Paintings & Prints," a group show featuring
Japanese printmakers Rieko Fujinami and Kenichi Tanaka. To August
15. Gallery hours are Wednesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
West: Recent Acquisitions of American Photography," featuring
20 photographs by 15 artists. Featured photographers include Barbara
Bosworth, Peter de Lory, Wanda Hammerback, Mark Klett, and Richard
Misrach. To September 6. Open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m.
to 5 p.m.; Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. Tours every Saturday at 2 p.m.
"Sing Whatever is Well Made," an exhibition of Irish poetry,
celebrating the library’s acquisition of the Leonard Milberg ’53
of Irish Poetry, comprising more than 1,000 printed works by 50 poets.
To September 20.
732-524-3698. In the New Jersey Artists Series, Greg Kwiatek, oil
on linen abstract paintings by the Hoboken painter known for his
who now works with biomorphic abstractions. To August 3.
Also "America’s Favorite Pastime," a baseball show featuring
fine art and documentary photographs by Jim Dow and Mauro Altamura.
To August 14. Both shows free by appointment.
33 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, 732-932-7511. "Mexico
featuring five large paintings by Noe Hernandez, and "Puerto Rican
Graphic Arts, 1950-85," an exhibit of 65 prints and posters by
significant artists from Puerto Rico and New York City. To August
14. Gallery hours are Monday & Wednesday, noon to 4:30 p.m.; Tuesday
& Thursday, noon to 7:30 p.m.
Street, New Brunswick, 732-846-5777. Victor Vasarely Retrospective,
an exhibition by the father of Op Art — "the pop of op"
— and pioneer of the development of every kind of optical device
for the creation of the new art of visual illusion. $2 donation. To
September 27. Museum hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.;
Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m.
732-257-4340. An outdoor contemporary sculpture gallery. Hours are
Friday to Sunday, noon to 5 p.m., and by appointment. Discounts are
offered during Fern Road reconstruction through early August. Call
for alternative directions.
streets, New Brunswick, 732-932-7237. "Paul Robeson: Artist and
Citizen," a major show in observance of the centennial of the
birth of the Princeton-born scholar, athlete, singer, movie star,
and political activist. The multi-disciplinary show features 150 items
on loan from collections around the world. By placing Robeson’s life
within the context of American history during the first half of this
century, the exhibit interprets major themes of social, cultural,
and intellectual history. To July 31.
Museum hours are Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Saturday
and Sunday, Noon to 5 p.m. Closed Mondays and major holidays.
$3 adults; free for members, children under 18, and Rutgers students,
faculty, and staff. Free on the first Sunday of each month.
Line Road, 609-252-6275. "Transcending the Surface: Layers,
and Textures" featuring the work of Susan Hockaday, photography,
Margaret Kennard Johnson, prints, Trudy Kraft, painting, and Joy
fabric construction. To September 7. Gallery hours are Monday to
9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday to 7 p.m.; weekends & holidays, 1 to 5
p.m. @HEAD 14 = Art In Trenton
Trenton, 609-394-4095. Three artist exhibition featuring Sal Panasci,
Helen Post, and Patricia Rosenblad. To August 21.
TAWA Invitational, the first of three members’ shows featuring
Doernbach, Eric Fowler, Julian Kernes, Charles McCollough, and Marge
Miccio. Jurors are Mel Leipzig, Molly Merlino, and Bernard Moore.
To August 9. Museum hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.;
Sunday, 2 to 4 p.m.
"Twists and Turns," a father and son exhibition of sculpture,
drawings, and paintings by Mike and Michael Gyampo Jr. To August 6.
Gallery hours are Monday to Thursday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The show was initiated by 10-year-old Michael Jr., a fourth grader
at Princeton Charter School, and one of Mike and Portia Gyampo’s four
sons. In 1997, Michael Jr. won a scholarship from Johnson park School
for a 10-week study program at Moore College of Art. He produced his
first bronze sculpture in the second grade and has produced eight
more in past three years.
609-292-6464. "Building the Collections: Recent Acquisitions in
the Fine and Decorative Arts," works from the Zoltan Buki Fine
Arts Collection by Tova Beck-Friedman, Victor Davson, Marion Held,
Hughie Lee-Smith, James Seawright, Mel Leipzig and others, to
On extended view: "Dinosaur Turnpike: Treks through New Jersey’s
Piedmont"; "Amber: The Legendary Resin"; "The Moon:
Fact & Fiction". Museum hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 9 a.m.
to 4:45 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. Free.
609-599-5659. "Envisioning Realities & Fantasies in Mediums of
Adolescent Youth," an exhibition of pencil drawings by Kyle
a student at Reynolds Middle School in Hamilton. To August 11.
609-397-0275. "Ink Abstractions" by John Mishler, a professor
of biology, genetics, and embryology during the academic year and
studio painter during the summer. To August 8. Gallery hours are
to Thursday, 1 to 9 p.m.; Friday 1 to 5 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to
5 p.m.; closed Sunday.
609-397-2226. Photographs of San Francisco and Paris by Joyce Gulick
and vintage photographs of Lambertville in the 1960s by her father,
the late Frank Gulick. To August 22.
609-397-2300. Lambertville art dealer Howard Mann liquidates his art
collection after 34 years in the business. Works by Gorman, Erte,
Boulanger, Dali, Tarkay, Vasarely, Ebgi, Alexandra Nechita, and others
are all on the block. Sale continues until the art is gone. Gallery
hours are Wednesday to Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.
1860 House, 124 Montgomery Road, 609-921-3272. A two-month exhibit
exploring themes of human rights, oppression, and freedom, to benefit
the Tibet Fund and the Siddhartha School Project in India.
The show is part of an international summertime awareness campaign
with 3,000 artists in 45 countries joining with support of Richard
Gere, Elie Wiesel, Harry Wu, and Diane Feinstein. The group of 25
participating artists, who donate a portion of their sales to the
Tibet charities, include sacred sand mandala painter Tenzin Dhodak;
painters Sabrina Gaydos, Jacob Landau, Chuma Okoli, Maria Owens, and
Seow-Chu See; and sculptors Gyuri Hollosy, Peter Chinni, and Colleen
Oil paintings by Etzir Desir, an artist born in Haiti, whose work
evokes the colorful spirit of the islands. Also Zsolnay porcelain.
Open Wednesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sundays noon to 3 p.m.
908-725-2110. Work by teachers and students in classes, workshops,
and the Roving Press programs. To August 15. Gallery hours are
to Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and Saturday, 1 to 4 p.m.
215-340-9800. "The Passionate Eye: Paintings by European and
Masters from Bucks County Collections," with works by Balthus,
Bonnard, Cassatt, Cezanne, Gaugin, Hopper, Picasso, and Monet; to
August 23. Also, "Contemporary Woodworkers," a Bucks County
invitational show of works by Jeffrey Greene, Mira Nakashima-Yarnall,
Phillip Lloyd Powell, Mark Sfirri, and Robert Charles Whitley II,
to September 13.
Also featured, "Creative Bucks County: A Celebration of Art and
Artists," an interactive exhibit honoring 12 maverick Bucks County
figures that include Oscar Hammerstein, Pearl Buck, and Dorothy
Hours are Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Saturday and
10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed Mondays. Adults $5; students $1.50; children
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